Winter can be tough in any climate for people in recovery from a substance use or eating disorder. Setting yourself up now for success in the spring will see you rolling into the new year a healthier, happier and stronger you.
Fewer hours of sunlight in the fall and winter, along with the cold or the wet weather, can dampen your mood and serve as a trigger for unhealthy behaviors. You may also be less likely to leave the house in bad weather to attend a meeting, which puts you at risk of feeling isolated and lonely—another trigger. And, of course, there’s the holiday season, a potentially stressful time that can be a real roadblock to recovery.
These five powerful tips can help get you through these tough months so that you’ll emerge into spring with a deeper commitment to sobriety and a stronger resolve to enjoy long-term successful recovery.
Identify Risky Situations and Develop a Coping Strategy
Depending on what your personal triggers are, some of the events in the winter months may put you at a higher risk of relapse. Identifying these high-risk situations and developing strategies for coping with them is key.
For example, if you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, a high-risk situation might be a family dinner where you know your family members will make comments about your food choices. If you’re in recovery from a substance use disorder, a high-risk situation might be one in which everyone will be drinking at an open bar.
Anticipating problems ahead of time and taking steps to reduce the impact of the situation is key for preventing a lapse. These tips can help:
- Do some deep breathing or mindful meditation before the event.
- Visualize how you will handle sticky situations.
- Have someone you can call if you feel you need help.
- Consider bringing a supportive friend to the event.
- Have an exit plan in case you feel you need to leave.
- Don’t be afraid to turn down invitations if you feel an event could pose a serious risk to your recovery.
Take Care of Yourself
- Getting adequate sleep
- Reducing your stress
- Eating healthy food
- Getting plenty of exercise
- Taking time to rest when you’re feeling worn out
Good self-care improves your quality of life and sense of well-being, and it can lead to other healthy choices. Practicing good self-care now will help ensure higher self-efficacy and good health in spring.
Reduce Your Stress
Stress is a major trigger for the development of a substance use disorder, and it’s an important trigger for relapse.2 Reducing stress is crucial for maintaining successful long-term recovery. To reduce stress and promote feelings of calm and relaxation, try these tips:
- Meditate. Meditation reduces stress and improves your self-awareness.
- Do yoga. Yoga also reduces stress, and it can even change the way your body responds to stress.
- Breathe deeply. Slow, deep breaths reduce stress hormone levels on the spot.
- Progressive relaxation. Progressively relaxing all of your muscle groups along with deep breathing is a relaxing way to reduce stress.
Approach Setbacks Positively
Relapse is no longer considered to be the catastrophe it once was. Rather, it’s an opportunity to evaluate what went wrong and develop missing skills to help you better cope next time. How you approach a setback can determine whether you give up or continue on in recovery stronger than before.
When you hit a rough spot, get the help you need right away. If you lapse, forgive yourself, learn what you can from the situation and move forward in recovery.